Let's salute Chris and Miriam Kikis, Norfolk restaurant legends
PUBLISHED: 07:30 05 March 2018 | UPDATED: 07:30 05 March 2018
Richard Hughes pays tribute to a Norfolk couple who have called it a day on their restaurant after almost four decades.
The news of another Norfolk restaurant closure has touched a nerve, albeit for a different reason to the slew of economically-enforced shutdowns we’ve seen in recent weeks.
After nearly 40 years of trading, Great Yarmouth’s Seafood Restaurant is shutting its doors for the last time.
Chris and Miriam Kikis can turn off the ovens and grills knowing they’ve given the county - and Yarmouth in particular - a great service.
Quietly going about their business, never seeking publicity, confidently sticking to what they are good at and never wavering as trends come and go, still using the same fish merchant they did on the opening night and making their loyal followers happy and content - it’s an effort which should be lauded and admired.
To run a successful business for 40 years is incredibly impressive, to do it in the fickle dining-out market is astonishing.
The Great Yarmouth of 1979, when the Kikis first opened, was a very different place to what it is today.
It seemed to me like a cross between a Gold Rush town, the Wild West and Las Vegas. The perfect storm of the arriving oil trade, the masses - who had yet to discover holidays abroad and who descended annually for a two-week break - and a busy port meant business boomed 52 weeks a year, with the streets seemingly paved with hard cash.
I arrived from the Fens in 1977 and for me it was the most exciting place on earth.
The town was awash with hotels, restaurants and B&Bs all full-to-overflowing.
Among them was The Seafood along with The Imperial Hotel’s Rambouillet Room, which were the tastes du jour at the close of the 1970s.
On race day, the queues were endless, as were the orders for grilled dover sole, steak Diane and crepes suzette.
I was always fascinated by the string of eateries that lined the Golden Mile.
My first-ever “meal out” was at the Othello Taverna on the seafront: it was in 1978, but I remember it more than any other Michelin experience I’ve had since.
Corn on the cob, spaghetti Bolognese and rum baba: I’d never tasted any of them before, they seemed so extravagant and so very exciting. They still remain favourites!
I’m now at an age when I’m asked about my retirement on a weekly basis but I can’t ever see it happening.
The phrase “taking it a bit easier” just doesn’t fit with the hospitality way of life, so it’s all the more impressive that the Kikis have made the (no doubt painful) decision to take a well-earned rest.
There are so many sacrifices this couple will have made, from family to hobbies to holidays to aches and pains, all will have taken second-place to their beloved restaurant.
I wish them well in their retirement: they certainly deserve it. I hope the powers-that-be will see fit to adorn this odd little building on North Quay with a blue plaque as a permanent thank you and a reminder of the joy that this remarkable couple have bought to all who dined with them.